My Legendary Girlfriend – The Wrong End of a Telescope
Whilst the rest of the country resolve to eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day and enormous quantities of pumpkin seeds, the people of Glasgow remain loyal to their battered Mars bars and their super-strength lager. Average life expectancy in Kensington is 84, in Glasgow it’s 65, the lowest in Britain. Terrifying really. And yet it is these social extremes, these nihilistic habits, that make for such an impressive cultural scene. It is possible (just) to imagine David Shrigley, Franz Ferdinand or James Kelman emerging from another city, but you suspect that they wouldn’t be as distinctive.
My Legendary Girlfriend are a band who bristle with the tensions, troubles and contradictions of Glaswegian life. However, their fourth album, The Wrong End of a Telescope, is about finding solutions, “taking a step back” rather than magnifying problems (hence the telescope metaphor). The music is varied, taking in the lo-fi art rock of the Yummy Fur, the droning electronica of Kraftwerk, as well as Beatlesy pop sensibilities. Singer Paul McGazz is often compared to Mark E. Smith, but his range is wider, reserving those indignant spoken word moments for emphasis, as on A Song for Europe:
You can afford to be liberal
When you fill out your expenses.
I want to be in Europe
Just not the one you are offering.
Let’s join the communist bloc!
One of the key songs is Renaissance Man, where McGazz takes on the voice of a Glasgow Ned (the equivalent of Chav): “I’m drenched in deodorant, still smell of violence. [. . .] You wish you were like me: heavy handed sarcasm, world weary at sixteen.” The atmosphere of the song, with its mesmerising bass line and scorching synth perfectly captures the underlying threat of the Ned.
The second half of the album moves away from social problems and concentrates on the individual: Near & Far takes in “automation, autobahns and auto-tune radios” as a metaphor for alienation, Therapy is about not being able to talk to people, Ephemera is about nostalgia. Never cliché¤¬ always finding something vital in a world that affects to be so jaded. The Wrong End of a Telescope is great achievement.